Monday, October 12, 2009

When Great Comic Books Make Terrible TV Shows

You've probably never heard of a comic book from the 1980s called "Jon Sable: Freelance," even though it's still published intermittently today. It was created, written, and drawn by Mike Grell from its first issue in 1983. (That's the cover at left.) The title character, Jon Sable, was a sort of mercenary/private eye for hire. A one man "A-Team" with a dash of Sam Spade. Among other adventures, he saved President Reagan from assassination, tried to rescue POWs in Vietnam (before either Chuck Norris or Rambo), and caught a thief who tried to steal the original Maltese Falcon movie prop. Like James Bond, he also made time for an endless string of love affairs, all of which were rendered in some detail (much to my delight as a young teenage boy).

Fifty six issues were published by First Comics in its initial run from 1983-1988. Curiously, the comic book was cancelled just as ABC launched a prime time TV show adaptation of it that was titled simply, "Sable." But boy was the TV show terrible. The show's minimalist production values gave it the "cheap" look of a soap opera. Only 7 episodes were ever aired before it was pulled. It pretty much tells you all you need to know about the show that its producers added a new character: a heavy-set computer expert nicknamed "Cheesecake," as Jon Sable's sidekick.
The 1 minute intro to the show is embedded below. My "favorite" part of it is when Sable leaps over the building's ledge to absolutely no dramatic effect. That's exactly what I felt like doing, too, after I suffered through the first episode back in 1987. If you watch this intro, you may be amazed to learn that this was actually the second version of the show that was shot. An entire pilot episode was filmed with Gene Simmons (yes, the Gene Simmons of KISS fame) playing Jon Sable that was never aired. It makes you wonder how impossibly risible that version must have been if this second version was deemed a big enough improvement to be added to ABC's prime time line-up.

No comments:

Post a Comment